Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Does God Care Whether Couples Have Kids? Southern Baptists Disagree
The AP reports that the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has stirred debate by asserting that it's "an absolute revolt against God's design" if married couples purposely avoid bearing children. A bitter response to Mohler’s argument was written by Social Ethics professor Miguel De La Torre, a fellow Southern Baptist minister, alumnus of Mohler's seminary and father of two who teaches at the Methodists' Iliff School of Theology in Denver. De La Torre protested that whether Mohler realizes it or not, his theology is "white-supremacy code language advocating for the increase of white babies." Declining birth rates have been a concern of religious, social, and economic leaders, and Mohler also warned about "huge social problems" that lie ahead, but his primary concern was that raising children is a God-given duty, “a gift from the Lord” (Psalms 127:3-5), and "one of the most crucial opportunities for the making of saints." De La Torre criticized Mohler's viewpoint as anti-birth control, however, Mohler didn't oppose contraception, nor did he define the number of children a couple should have. He also said he wasn't talking about couples who are unable to have children, only those who would "reject this intrusion in their lifestyle." The Mohler-De La Torre feud reflects two competing approaches: thinkers like Mohler want to apply biblical principles as fully as possible in the 21st century, while De La Torre believes it's "the height of biblical naiveté to impose modern concepts upon ancient texts."
Death Penalty Perverts Christianity, SayChurch Leaders
Protestant leaders in Austria have called on California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to spare the life of an elderly convict on death row, Ekklesia reports. “A country which uses the death penalty violates its citizens’ human dignity,” the Evangelical Church in Austria said in advance of the scheduled execution of 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen. Allen, who has been on death row for 26 years, is blind, diabetic, has a weak heart and is wheelchair-bound. His lawyers argue that it would be cruel to kill him because of his infirmity, though they do not deny the extent of his crime. The Austrian church leaders believe that “biblical and theological arguments point only to a clear and unambiguous ‘no’ to the death penalty,” putting them in confrontation with most of the religious right in the United States. Christian opponents of the death penalty, including Sister Helen Prejean, whose story was dramatized in the film Dead Man Walking, say that the death penalty is merciless, discriminates against the poor, denies the reality of redemption, and risks killing the innocent. Sister Prejean is especially scathing toward those who use the Bible to justify executions. “I call it Christianity-lite”, she declares. “It’s not real Christianity. Jesus Christ is being held hostage by these people: His whole message is being perverted.”
End-Times Expert: God's Peace Plan for Israel, Not Man's, Will Succeed
Christian author James Goll says in an Agape Press story that the recent stroke by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has put a spotlight on the volatility in the region, and on the importance of the United States siding with Israel. Goll’s book, Praying for Israel's Destiny: Effective Intercession for God's Purposes in the Middle East, uses scripture to highlight God's plans for the Jewish people and their covenant land. According to Goll, God's plan and timetable for Israel will not be hindered by Sharon's replacement, will be carried out no matter who leads that nation, and man-made peace plans will not work in Israel. The expert on the biblical account of the end times also says the solution to the conflict does not lie in the hands of the so-called superpowers. "I do not believe that it's going to be… the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations coming up with a contrived approach to try to bring peace," he explains. Goll encourages every born-again believer to take seriously the Bible's admonition to pray over the events unfolding in the Holy Land. “There is only one city that we are all commanded to pray for across the globe. We are to pray for Jerusalem."
Islamic GroupUrges Catholic School to Move to Muslim Faith
An Islamic campaign group has called for a Catholic primary school to be based on the Muslim faith, according to a story in The Scotsman. The Campaign for Muslim Schools said 90 percent of pupils at St. Albert's Primary in Glasgow are Muslim, yet children are having to take part in Catholic rituals like saying the Lord's Prayer and attending mass. Osama Saeed, co-ordinator of the alliance of Glasgow's main mosques and Muslim organizations, said he could see no reason why the main faith of the school should not change. He said: "Clearly the parents of that area find a faith school, even if it is of another denomination, preferable to a secular one. But surely it should be possible for them to have one that is relevant to their own faith. To move towards this would be a fantastic example of good faith - in more ways than one - on the part of the Church." The call came just days after Scotland's most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, sparked controversy by stating that Scotland's core faith was Christianity and that other faiths should recognize they were "living in Scotland as a Christian country". A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland was not available for comment.